A flower with beauty and brains
In 2001, I saw photos of these beautiful and unique flowers in Common Indian Wild Flowers book. It was so fascinating; I started looking out for this species of flower in the wild. It is challenging to spot and identify as there are many varieties of the Ceropegias… few are climbers, some are herbs, and few others are bushes. The Beauty of these flowers lies in its unique, ‘Diwali lantern’ like the shape and is commonly known as ‘lantern flower’. The calyx has five sepals, the five petals of the corolla are fused to form a tube, and the flower is nearly spherical at the base. The tips of the lobes, together, form lantern-like shape. The unique shape of the flower allows only certain pollinators the access to pollinating parts, which is found right at the bottom of the long corolla tube. When the flower successfully pollinates, twin seed-horns appear.
Ceropegia flowers attract small flies by releasing a special scent that attracts the flies. The guiding lines and fine hair inside the flower are placed in such a way that they momentarily trap the fly until it pollinates the flower. The pollinated flower begins to droop low, which is a signal to the next visiting insect about the particular flower being already pollinated, so it can visit the next flower.
There are around 269 species of Ceropegia in the world and only 50 species in India, mainly found in the Western Ghats. It’s been an innate desire to observe and photograph these intriguing flowers. I saw my first Ceropegia species at Tugareshwar Sanctuary and that fuelled the quest even more. Every species of this flower has a different look, even the shapes of plants and habitat are very different. Few can be found on plateaus and some can be seen on cliffs or on high elevations. Finding Ceropegia is a big challenge and then capturing them in photographs is even a bigger one. Till date, I have been able to find and photograph only 10 species and I eagerly await for opportunities to add many more to my list.
Cover Pic: Ceropegia fantastica-Top View, Photographed by Yuwaraj Gurjar
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